A young violinist who borrowed an instrument from a music-loving benefactor because her family could not afford to buy one has been shortlisted for one of the world’s most prestigious music competitions.
Mathilde Milwidsky, 21, from London, is in the running for the 2016 Menuhin competition, founded by the violinist Yehudi Menuhin more than 30 years ago and considered to be the “Olympics of the violin”.
She is one of three Britons – the competition’s highest UK representation for 20 years – picked from a record-breaking 300 entrants from 40 countries. The contest is the world’s leading competition for musicians under 22, and many of its winners have gone on to international fame.
Milwidsky, currently in her third year at the Royal Academy of Music, was offered a place at Cambridge University and scholarships from all the London conservatoires. She turned down Cambridge to pursue a career as a performer – “ideally, [as] a soloist,” she said. “I feel very proud to be representing Britain.”
Milwidsky’s mother is a single parent who works as a learning and support assistant for maths at a state school in north London. Milwidsky has never met her father.
She paid tribute to the support of both her mother and the benefactor who lent her a 1850s Landolfi violin after they were introduced by a sixth form teacher who recognised Milwidsky’s potential.
Milwidsky recalled: “I went to play for him and he decided to lend me an instrument.” She is overwhelmed by his generosity – her family could not have afforded such and instrument – and they remain in constant touch.
The benefactor, who asked not to be named, told the Guardian Milwidsky was “an exceptional talent”. He added: “I’ve always tried to help players as much as I could.”
Milwidsky is one of three young British players picked for the competition.